Saxophone Forum


by swingstreet
(315 posts)
8 years ago

Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

My father had been a professional musician in Europe, playing mainly tenor sax. After he came to America, he stopped playing professionally and did other work so he could take care of our family. When I was a small kid, I remembered my father coming home from work, pulling out his Conn 6M(he sold his tenor, a 10M, in Germany)and practicing for a couple of hours. I remembered the big bundles of music and exercise books he had. I knew about Charlie Parker when I was 5 years old because my father had some Parker transcriptions with Bird's picture on the cover. By the time I turned 7, my father had stopped playing altogether. I didn't know what happened to the sax. Fast forward to the late 60's. I had been listening to a lot of Rock'n'Roll, played the guitar in a half-assed teenage way just to impress the girls in school. However, I still would listen to jazz every now and then. One day, one of my classmates had the Brubeck album Time Out, and he played me Take Five. As a 16 year old who thought that the ultimate music was Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa(I do still like them), this impressed me. However, when I got home, my father had just come from the record store and had bought a new album. That album was Benny Carter's greatest, Further Definitions. He played it and I was floored. At that moment, I told my father that I wanted to play the sax like that. My father smiled, and went into his junk closet. He pulled out a lot of junk, like tool boxes, electronic parts, tubes, wires, books and magazines, and other things. Then he pulled out a case wrapped in heavy canvas. In it was the Conn 6M. I opened the case and looked at it and I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw. He gave me the sax and my first lesson on the horn that night. A few years later, I'm walking down W. 50th street in New York with my sax slung on my shoulder. As I am walking, I notice a man walking slightly ahead of me also carrying an alto on his shoulder. As I pass him, I look at him and he looks at me. He looks familiar but I couldn't place him yet. He smiles and asks, which horn do you have? I told him a Conn 6M. He says, that's a great horn. Then he introduces himself. It's Lee Konitz. We talk a while, and he invites me up to his apartment on the Upper West Side. We spoke for over 2 hours in his beautiful apartment(it was the size of a house), and he gave me tips, and then asked me to play something. I was nervous, because up to that point, I was still not practicing a great deal, and I didn't think I was too good. I played Benny's solo part from Blue Star on Further Definitions, and Lee nodded and said, well, you got a sound of your own, how would you like to really learn how to play. Little did I know then that it was my first lesson with him. He encouraged and inspired me. Later I had the privilege of also meeting my idol Benny Carter many times when he was in NYC and in Boston, and it is because of these men that I continue to play today.

Reply To Post [Report Abuse]

Report Abuse

Replies

  1. by machx1
    (3 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    wow thats an awesome story. I basically started out young as a musician in 1st or 2nd grade playing violin. And at the time i listened to alot of classical music. Everything that I listened to inspired and calmed my soul. But as i got older the calm sounds wouldnt suffice for me. In fifth grade I was introduced to jazz. John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dave Koz, and alot of other names just left me with my mouth wide open. I noticed then that playing classical on violin wasnt for me. I needed something upbeat and fast and complex. And that was the beginning of it. Over the years i had been learning in school with the material they gave me, which honestly is nothing as great as the runs Coltrane pulled in his shows. Then another oportunity came up. In church. The praise team in my church had a guitar a bass and a drummer and they asked me to play. I knew nothing of improv. and there was no music for me to play with. So i tried my best toying around with different sounds and chords and eventually i became pretty good at playin around with the music i listen to. And now i strive to get better so i can create better music, and be able to keep up with the musicians around me.

    Reply To Post AIM


  2. by Donnie The B
    (282 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    Wow - I love this discussion. What great stories. I started playing tenor sax when I was 12 years old. Many of the rock songs of the late 1950's and early 1960's featured a tenor sax solo. So that's what I had to play! I had some kind of rental horn for like 2 months, then the band director and/or my private teacher talked my parents into getting me something better. That turned out to be a new 1961 (in 1962) Selmer Mark VI - spoiled I guess. (Thanks Mom and Dad). Wow what a difference. I enveloped myself in practice for quite some time. Thanks also to Woody Wood - my Lee Konitz - a great teacher and clainet/alto man whose favorite line about intonation and precision was - It's close enough for jazz. All my friends were listening to The Beach Boys, Hank Ballard, Chubby Checker, The Isely Brothers and all the other Rock'n'Roll of that period. I listened too, but at home, I went into the den, put on my Koss headphones, cranked up the Sylvania stereo and listened to Gerry Mulligan and The Concert Jazz Band, Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, Woody Herman, Miles Davis and many others - mostly cool jazz and West Coast I realize now -- as well as Basie, Ellington , Herman's Herds and other big bands. The next year, I could actually play a little bit, and formed a rock band. Within a month we played at school assemblies and sock hops. (Louie, Louie was all the rage). Then in 1964, I formed a big band playing stock stage band music. When alone, I would try to play along with the jazz records blaring from the stereo. Zoot was the best - man he really could swing - great sense of rhythm. Loved playing along with stereo small group stuff by turning the soloist channel down. By 1965 we were playing at country clubs, on TV shows and other events. We got some fairly nice arrangements along the way and developed a book of about 150 songs. At the peak we had 5 saxes, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, bass and drums. Sometimes we even had a pianist - if the venue had one. The last gig the big band played was New Year's Eve 1972. It still amazes me how much were were able to charge for that gig. I've played with other bands and small groups, but most fondly remember my band - The Vibrations. I'm still playing, but have not charged anyone for years now. Just doing this is psyching me up to practice though! Incidently, I'm playing the same horn and usually the same mouthpiece. Good Luck All.

    Reply To Post


  3. by Michael Collins
    (13 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    I guess it all started with my love for jazz, which I got from my grandparents. I was always extremely close to my grandparents when I was younger and they played jazz all the time. Traditional New Orleans jazz and swing was what they really liked. I can still remember sitting on the screened in back porch in the summertime while Louis Armstong scatting and blowing over "Basin Street Blues" or Duke Ellington's orchestra playing "Mood Indigo" flowed out of the speakers from the radio. I always wanted to play the sax when I was younger, but I grew up in an apartment and my mom said that it would be too loud and the other tennants would complain. So I took up guitar instead. I got pretty good at playing blues, and I still play every so often. When I was about 23 (about 3 and a half years ago), I decided that I was going to buy a sax and learn how to play it. I bought a Vito tenor for about $550 and have been playing ever since. I recently switched to alto within the last year out of necessity (a tenor is a real pain in the ass to carry around when you have to take public transportation everywhere), but that's okay because I love my Super 20 alto! I don't get a lot of time to practice because I also work with special ed. kids, but I don't think I'll ever stop laying. I love music and playing sax too much!

    Reply To Post


    1. by Saxyboy
      (52 posts)

      7 years ago

      Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

      What a bunch of great stories here! I'm kind of embarassed that my initial inspiration to choose sax over some other band instrument came from the fact that many rock songs have a tenor break/solo. So I had to have a tenor sax! Once I got into listening to jazz, Lester Young, Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane and many others urged me to get better through their recorded proficiency. Now that I'm grown, and have been taking money to play for 10 years or more, I realize I'm about half as good as I thought I was in school. Therefore I still force myself to practice as much as possible.

      Reply To Post


  4. by Sax_Shark
    (134 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    This is an interesting question. My mother played a Kenny G tape in the delivery room and we always joke about that being the reason I play sax now. But, I'm a little older and wiser and I know that couldn't have possibly been the case (plz God, NO). Ever since elementary school and recorder classes, I've loved music and not been too bad at woodwinds either. My music teacher in elementary school always said I was going to do something with music for at least my high school career. Hmm, I wonder if she thought I would major in it?

    Reply To Post


  5. by Stiles B
    (101 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    During WWII my mother played in a big band that was pretty popular regionally. She was a decent trombonist and basically this was a period in time when she could get a chance to play professionally. She and my father both had a love for swing era big band music and my house growing up was filled with the sounds of their youth and my mom's passion for the music of her memories. I would look at the album covers and she would tell me which instruments were playing. I at first fell in love with the way a saxophone was shaped and that's what inspired me to take up the instrument in grade school. I quickly realized that I didn't do anything else nearly as well so I stuck with it with the half-baked notion that it was what I wanted to "do with my life". And the rest, as they say, is, well, the rest.

    Reply To Post


    1. by Sax Mom
      (964 posts)

      8 years ago

      Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

      Great and wonderful stories! I started on sax for the utterly mundane reason that in our small school, the one tenor saxophone player was going to be graduating in three years when I was ready to start learning an instrument in the 5th grade. Therefore, I started to learn the tenor saxophone... I look forward to reading more of the more wonderful kinds of stories!

      Reply To Post


  6. by Donnie The B
    (282 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    This is a great discussion and I'm bumping it up for a newbie. - - - - Later

    Reply To Post


  7. by SaxNoob
    (19 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    wow~...after all the stories i've read, mine will be kind of embarrassing. Well i started in 4th grade, the first year my School District Offer Band, so i wanted to play the sax so i can impress all the ladies since my cousin said chicks dig Saxophonists. so i played little by little and now im a freshman in high school in which i've been really "practicing" now that im in the jazzband which is REALLY challenging for me.. ahhaah so that's my story. im still going to try and get the ladies now that im in high school

    Reply To Post AIM


  8. by AlwaysBored89
    (10 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    3rd grade. I was sitting in the cafeteria/auditorium of what would turn out to be my middle school watching my sister's 7th grade band concert and mom asked me what I wanted to play when the time came around that I could start taking band. I told her I wanted to play drums, but she told me no, "they're too loud" (she didn't know about drum pads being able to dampen the noise) So I then said piccolo, because it was small, cute, and the name sounded like pickle. (I didn't tell her that was the reason, of course) She told me no, I'd have to learn flute first. I had tried to play my sister's flute before and knew that wouldn't work for me, I can't get noise when I blow over the opening to a bottle, and my arms were too short. I then said "Saxophone!" Mom said okay. Then I asked her which one the saxophone was. But hey! I love it, I'm good at it, and I don't mind admitting the true story, pickle and all ;)

    Reply To Post


  9. by saxmasterfunk
    (18 posts)

    8 years ago

    Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

    well, i pretty much inspired myself, tryed some insruments in 5th grade. i originally wanted to play drums, but sax won out. It was a godd choice cause ive been top ever since but still, i think i wouldve been awesome on the drums.

    Reply To Post AIM


    1. by Radjammin
      (255 posts)

      8 years ago

      Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

      Band Director wanted me to play trumpet, Dad wanted me to play Sax. I played sax. Overall I think I have enjoyed sax more then trumpet. I play both now, but I do wonder what would have happen if I had started on Trumpet??? I sure do love playing high notes on Trumpet.... Major head rush. Woot!!!

      Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM


      1. by The Insomniac Saxman
        (141 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        I grew up watching the Lawrence Welk Show every Saturday night, and was always impressed by Henry Cuesta's clarinet playing. Then one night, I noticed that he was playing sax in the section (up until that point, I really hadn't paid attention). I thought that was pretty cool that he played two instruments. I had played piano since the 1st grade, but when I started 4th grade, they were starting up a band program at school. I wanted to play something that no one else was playing (okay, well first I wanted to play drums, but my folks said, "No"), so since there were no sax players at the time I signed up, I went with that. I did good enough just riding on natural musical ability . . . it was hearing Tom Scott for the first time when I was a junior in high school (sure I had heard him hundreds of times playing the theme from "Family Ties," but this was the first time I heard him as a solo artist) that made me want to get serious about the horn. From there I got into David Sanborn, Grover Washington, Jr., etc. But when I first heard Cannonball, it was all over . . . I started exploring the straight ahead side of things. Nowadays, I find myself inspired by many saxophone sources in the musical spectrum, provided that it is quality playing . . .

        Reply To Post


        1. by Radjammin
          (255 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

          Reply To Post Yahoo! AIM


        2. by The Insomniac Saxman
          (141 posts)

          8 years ago

          Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

          Thanks Radjammin! Haven't heard that recording in years! Takes me back to the days of my youth . . . BTW, my all-time favorite Tom Scott album is "Apple Juice," recorded live at the Bottom Line in NY circa 1980. It hasn't been reissued on CD in the U.S. yet, but is available as an import (towerrecords.com) if anyone is interested . . .

          Reply To Post


      2. by Mactenor
        (102 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        I started in 5th grade on clarinet. When I started junior high, I saw that girls (not in the band) looked at clarinet players as "geeks" (not cool) The junior high school high school had a decent swing band and I really thought that the sax section was really cool. That Christmas I asked for, and received, a tenor saxophone, a Paragon Sax, (never heard the name before or since) but it didn`t matter as I was now in "Saxophone Heaven". The horn was almost as big as I was and was totally different than the clarinet, when I played the first notes I thought, what a monumental blunder, but as time passed I didn`t sound too bad. Two years later, when I entered high school, the clarinet was history and the tenor reigned supreme. By now I was a decent player and joined the high school band and this is where my real motivation to become a good player reared it`s head and can be summed up in one word.....GIRLS........ The sax players in the swing band had girls hanging around them all of the time and it dawned on me that this was the great equalizer to the hypnotic type trance that football players had on girls, the wail of a tenor sax.....I practiced constantly and just kept getting better and better and by the 11th grade became the tenor soloist in the swing band and (while looks has a lot to do with it and I had none) some of the girls started to hang around. I had been saving money for years and bought a King Super 20 and it sounded fantastic and my junior and senior years were very cool. Lots of parties, picnics and me and me and the horn kept pace with "Pigskin Pete" and the football team. So, up to this point in my life I was not motivated by Lester Young or Dexter Gordon, I was motivated by Diane Poetain (lord, she was beautiful). College flew by with very little music (very little time) and the horn sat in the closet. When I was 27 years old I heard Stan Kenton live and was so blown away by the tenor soloist tha I started playing again and never stopped. Today, I love and have great respect forthe saxophone, I practice every night and if I am half as good as I thought I was in high school, I am a pretty good player. Diane Poetains come and go, but Super 20s are forever. Best Regards Mactenor ,

        Reply To Post


      3. by swingstreet
        (315 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        Imagine if Diane Poetains was reading your post now.

        Reply To Post


      4. by jazzears
        (12 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        I was playing guitar in a rehearsal band one night, and simply quit thinking about what I was playing and started REALLY listening to what the tenor player was doing. He was playing a vintage Conn, and the sound was wonderful. I started thinking "I used to be a good clarinet player--I'll bet I could learn to play sax." The more I listened, the more fascinated I became with the sound. By the end of the rehearsal, I was thoroughly obsessed by that sound. I guess that's why they call it "the devil's horn." I'm a much better guitar player than I am a sax player, but I'm still sax-obsessed, and I have a lot of fun playing three of them for my own entertainment, and for the sheer thrill of making that sound.

        Reply To Post


      5. by Mactenor
        (102 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        Swingstreet If Diane Poetain read this post it would not affect in the least, she did not pay the least bit of attention to me in high school, so she sure the he** wouldn`t remember me now. Best Regards Mactenor

        Reply To Post


      6. by threetenors
        (18 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        It all started in grade seven. I was (and still am) a bassoon player. But, as I'm sure you all know, bass parts in concert band in junior high are BOREING!! So, I was at the final concert of the year, and the grade eights had a jazz band going. There was one player who stood up and took a solo. The sound of the instrument had an imediate effect on me. It was so smooth (despite the fact that she was only in grade eight) and it carried a tune so pleasantly. I picked up a tenor that summer, and it has not left my hands since. I was also inspired by watching a grade twelve student (I was in grade eight at the time) play with a quartet. He was a fenominal (sp) player. I have since looked him up and taken several lessons from him. I have tryed several different instruments since that day when I first played the tenor, but the sax is, and always will be my absolute favorite.

        Reply To Post


      7. by saxjunkie89
        (393 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        My elementary school music teacher. He brought in a long time sax player, of whom i now take weekly lessons from, and he showed us all of the woodwinds he owned(s). Including lots of clarinets, a bassoon, an oboe, and a quartet of saxes (SATB). That was the biggest moment of my life, as i started the sax the next year in 5th grade. Sadly, my music teacher was laid off two years ago due to inadequate funding. ("God forbid they cut funding in the football program, or THAT will be the end of western civilization as we know it!" quoting Mr. Holland in "Mr. Holland's Opus". Although i'm not completely sure if that is the exact quote.)

        Reply To Post


      8. by Sax_Shark
        (134 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        I agree with that quote. I hate when that kind of crap happens. It happens at my high school all the time. Arrgh.

        Reply To Post


      9. by Seano
        (132 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        Funnily enough, it wasn't any legendary player that inspired me to start. When I began high school, I was a reluctant clarinetist and did not care for jazz or sax. But I heard the 1st tenor in the school jazz band do a hot solo over the Peter Gunn Theme. Thats what got me going. And 5 years later, I've finished high school, I'm still playing and I'm starting a Bachelor of Jazz Performance degree next year. So thankyou, mysterious tenor player! :-) Sean

        Reply To Post


      10. by saxmachine777
        (57 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        Back in fifth grade, you either played in band or orchestra, or you read in class. I wanted to play in band with all of my schoolyard chums, so that was a not brainer, but it then begged the question: what instrument to play? I teetered for a while between sax and trombone, and when I told my mom (concert viloinist who was eager to get me into any music in which I showed interest, bless her soul) that I thought I wanted to play saxophone, she smiled and said it was a wonderful choice. The next day, when she came home from work, she placed an album on CD at my place at the table and said, "George, I want you to hear of what a master of your instrument is capable." The album was John Coltrane's "Blue Train", and when I played it the first time that night I was blown away by the blinding speed and myriad colors capable from the instrument. I was blown away, fell in love with the horn, and have never stopped playing. Trane continues to be one of my favorite players to this day.

        Reply To Post AIM


      11. by Sax Mom
        (964 posts)

        8 years ago

        Re: Who or what inspired you to play the saxophone?

        What a wonderful and inspired mother with which you've been blessed!

        Reply To Post